The goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life for people who have advanced illnesses, as well as their families. Emotional, physical, and spiritual needs and goals of the person who is being treated, as well as his or her family are taken into account. Palliative care does not replace primary medical treatment, but is provided in concert with all other medical care.
Anyone who has a serious or life-threatening illness can benefit from palliative care, either to treat signs and symptoms of the disease or to ease the side effects of treatment. Palliative care can help if you or your loved one needs help understanding more about an illness or coordinating medical care.
A palliative care specialist works with the primary care doctor and a team of other professionals to create a treatment plan that eases symptoms, relieves pain, addresses spiritual and psychological concerns, and helps maintain dignity and comfort. By reducing signs and symptoms during treatment, you or your loved one may be more likely to complete treatment and maintain an improved quality of life.
The palliative care team may include various specialists including doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, counselors, chaplains, registered dietitians, pharmacists and rehabilitation specialists. Treatment can be provided whether you or your loved one is being treated on an outpatient basis or in a hospital, nursing home, or through hospice.
Palliative care is available at any time during a serious or life-threatening illness, while hospice care is available only during the final months of life – when curative or life-prolonging treatments have been stopped. You do not have to be in hospice care to receive palliative care.
Dr. Hari Nagaraj is a Board Certified specialist in Palliative Care Medicine, and is the Medical Director for Palliative Care at Sutter Roseville Medical Center, Mercy San Juan Medical Center, and the Medical Director for Vitas Hospice in Sacramento.